When a property owner seeks to evict a tenant they always want to know how long the process will take. For most, the initial impression is that the entire action takes approximately forty-eight hours, or that an eviction is as simple as changing the locks. What many owners fail to realize is that even with expedited procedures in place, removing a tenant can sometimes take several weeks even if there is no opposition.
Florida law is very clear in that “self-help” eviction is prohibited. This means that it is illegal for a property owner to turn off the power, cut off the water supply, or change the locks. This is true even if there is no debating the fact that rent has not been paid. If a landlord utilizes self-help eviction he or she will face substantial penalties. Rather than use these tactics it is extremely important that an owner become familiar with Chapter 83 or hire a well-versed attorney to begin the eviction process.
Once a tenant fails to pay rent the first step is to send them a “three-day notice.” This notice serves to inform them that if the rent is not paid within three days then the lease will automatically be terminated. The three-day notice is not optional and courts will look for proof of compliance when an eviction is filed. Assuming the notice does not generate payment then the next step is to file a “complaint” with the court to seek possession of the property. A complaint takes approximately twenty-four hours to be processed and then a summons is issued. A summons is a document informing an individual that they have been sued and must be served on them before the case can move forward. Between the notice, the filing, and service of the summons you are most likely looking at approximately ten days having passed before you can move to the next step.
Fortunately, landlord/tenant allows for summary procedure which means that a tenant only has five days to file a response instead of twenty. Once the five days have passed, assuming there is no response, an owner can move for a default and request that a judgment be entered automatically. Although filing time can vary based on the Clerk’s workload, the average time for a default to be entered and a judgment to be signed is close to five days.
Now that two weeks have passed you can request that the Clerk issue a “writ of possession” which allows a deputy to physically remove anyone still occupying the property. The deputy will post the writ and then give the occupant twenty-four hours to vacate. Between the request, the posting, and the removal an owner is looking at an additional three days following the entry of the judgment.
Based on the estimates previously discussed, an owner can anticipate an uncontested eviction taking just under three weeks to complete. Obviously, if the tenant raises defenses and requests a hearing then the process can be delayed out even further. The best way to ensure that this delay is not encountered is to take steps to avoid the eviction in the first place. As someone who handles evictions on a regular basis I can say that most “problem” tenants have a history of non-payment, or a history of other negative acts. A thorough background check and insistence on first and last months rent will usually serve to remove any bad tenants from consideration.
If you are someone who is currently involved in a landlord/tenant dispute, do not hesitate to contact our firm in order to learn more about the process and more about your rights.